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tv   News Conference on IRS Targeting Investigation  CSPAN  March 9, 2014 2:31pm-2:48pm EDT

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amendment right and decline to answer that question. >> ms. lerner, on saturday, our committee's general counsel sent an email to your attorney saying, i understand that ms. lerner is willing to testify and she is requesting a one week delay in talking to the chairman -- excuse me. in talking to the chairman, wanted to make sure that was right. your lawyer in response to that question gave a one-word email response. yes. are you still seeking a one-week delay in order to testify? >> on the advice of my counsel i respectfully exercise my fifth amendment right and decline to answer that question. >> ladies and gentlemen, seeking the truth is the obligation of this committee. i can see no point in going further.
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i have no expectation that ms. lerner will cooperate with this committee and therefore we shall -- >> mr. chairman, i have a statement. i have a procedural question, mr. chairman. mr. chairman, i have a procedural question. mr. chairman, you cannot run a committee like this. you just cannot do this. this is -- we are better than that as a country, we're better than that as a committee. i have asked for a few minutes to -- and now you're turning me off. i am a ranking member on this committee and i want to ask a question. what's the big deal? may i ask my question? may i make my statement. >> you're all free to leave, we've adjourned but the gentleman may ask his question. >> mr. chairman, i have one procedural question and it goes
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to trying to help you get the information by the way you just asked. >> thank you very much. mr. chairman, i have a one procedural question. and it goes to trying to help you get the information by the way that you just asked. >> what is your question? >> let me say what i have to say. i've listened to you for the last 15 or 20 minutes. let me say what i have to say. i have one procedural question. >> ms. lerner, you're released. >> i'd like to take the time to make some brief points. for the past year, the central republican accusation -- >> we're adjourned -- >> before our committee -- [inaudible] >> thank you. >> [inaudible] >> shame, shame, shame. >> -- a president's political enemy. effectively lied about it during the election year in the fall. he continued -- [inaudible] >> if you will sit down and allow me to ask a question, i am
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a member of the congress of the united states of america. >> well -- >> we have people here, each of who represent 700,000 people. you cannot have a one-sided investigation. there is absolutely something wrong with that and this is absolutely un-american. >> hear, hear. >> we had a hearing, it's adjourned. i gave you the opportunity to ask a question. >> do i have a question -- i do have a question. >> i gave you the opportunity. >> what are you hiding? >> he's pleading the fifth. [laughter] >> -- to discuss the republican staff report claiming that ms. lerner was, quote, at center of the effort to target conservative groups. although we provided a copy of
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this report to fox, he refused my -- [inaudible] provided to the members of the committee. the fact however does not support these claims. we have now only 38 employees who have all told us the same thing. that the white house was not directed, subjected or even knew about it at the time it was occurring. and none -- [inaudible] any political motivation. the inspector general, russell george, told us the same thing. he found no evidence of any white house involvement or political motivation. instead, the very first line of the results of his report says that it began with -- [inaudible] who i quote, developed and used inappropriate criteria to identify applications from organizations with the words tea party in their names, end of quote. our committee confirmed this fact when we interviewed a
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screening group manager from cincinnati. this manager explained that his employees were the ones who first came up with the inappropriate search terms in 2010. he denied any political motivation and he made his point by explaining that he is, a quote, conservative republican. i release this entire interview transcript eight months ago for anyone who wants to read it for themselves. the inspector general's report also found that they did not discover use of this criteria until a year later, in 2011. which when he learned about them, and i quote again from the report, she immediately directed the criteria be changed, end of quote. mr. george's chief investigator also reviewed more than 5,500 emails from i.r.s. employees and, again, found no evidence of political motivation. over the past year, our committee has obtained hundreds of thousands of pages of
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documents and interviewed dozens of witnesses. the i.r.s. has spent more than $14 million responding to congressional investigations. we have identified absolutely no evidence to support allegations of a political conspiracy against conservative groups. what we have identified, however, is evidence of gross mismanagement. ms. lerner failed to discover these employees were using these search terms for a year and even after she ordered them to stop, they returned to using similar inappropriate criteria and she failed to inform congress about what she knew. so i do have serious questions for ms. lerner and i'm very disappointed that i will not be able to ask them today. but i do not support the republican conclusion that she waived her constitutional right nine months ago when she invoked the fifth amendment and i do not believe a court would uphold that conclusion.
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now, the chairman's gone, but i'd like to ask him a few procedural questions involving having a proper -- [inaudible]. as i said a little bit earlier, her attorney -- if she loses something, nobody gains anything. on february 26, her attorney sent a letter to the committee saying that he met with the chairman's staff last month. at that meeting her attorney said, and i quote, the staff asked if i would provide a proper testimony she would give and i agreed to do that, end of quote. but that did not happen. as i understand it, accepting the proffer does not grant immunity to the witness it. does not bind the committee in any way. instead, it allows the committee to obtain information without requiring the witness to waive her fifth amendment rights. i was not invited to the meeting last month when her attorney and i have not been included in any
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negotiations but it seems to me that the committee loses nothing by accepting this proffer and in fact we may gain important information. as a matter of fact, the very questions that the chairman just asked ms. lerner when she invoked her fifth amendment rights, those are the kind of questions that can be answered in a proffer. so i wanted to ask the chairman whether the committee can schedule a time, preferably this week, for all committee members to hear the proffer from ms. lerner's attorney and with that i yield back. yes, sir. >> i just want to note for the record i find it supreme irony that the chairman of this committee would unilaterally side -- [inaudible] that an american citizen has waived her fifth amendment rights while actually exercising his fifth amendment right not to answer your question to be asked of the
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minority of this committee. >> thank you very much.
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>> we had a hearing today in the committee in which we asked ms. -- she chose not to testify. after an exhaustive seven questions, i determined she was not going to testify. pursuant to an already completed hearing other than her testimony, i adjourned. this point, we will continue our investigation into the irs targeting of conservative groups. without the testimony of ms. lerner. are there any questions? >> [inaudible] >> he was not directing questions for the witness and the committee had already adjourned. >> [inaudible] >> pursuant to the committee, we recessed only to determine whether or not we could get her
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to give testimony. once it was determined, there was no question before us. mr. cummings did not raise a point of privilege or a point of order and i did recognize him when he said he had a question. he went into an opening statement. opening statements had been completed. there were 40 members sitting there and we had already adjourned. therefore, i left. >> [inaudible] >> he was talking into a microphone. mr. cummings came to make a point of his objections to the process we have been going through. he was slandering me at the moment that the microphones did go off by claiming this had not been a real investigation. this has been a bipartisan investigation by multiple committees in which we had testimony in multiple hearings,
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including esther jordan subcommittees, in which it was very clear there was targeting of conservative groups in which there were people who are acting outside the norm. we will continue our investigation. just because mr. cummings would like to have a more convenient truth does not give them the right to make a new speech. clear from multiple questions that she would not do it and she would not do it with the delay her attorney asked for. >> [inaudible] >> i have exhausted any possibility. -- we're goinged to go forward with the investigation. mr. jordan has additional work to do. >> [inaudible] >> that is something that has to be considered. at this point, we have been
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looking for the truth. we hoped is lerner, it in light of semi-direct e-mails -- in the light of so many direct e-mails, we hope to get answers from her. we will continue to seek answers from other areas. it is very clear -- why did she ask for crossroads applications? >> [inaudible] you still asked several questions. you did not give your democratic colleague [inaudible] he did not even have the chance. >> he said he had questions to ask. instead, he began making an opening statement.
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>> how much of this is a political play? .> not a shred of it not a smidgen of it. this targeting is something the president initially came out outraged against. as we began our investigation, we discovered there was clear differential treatment of conservative groups. included patriot or tea party. the administration has gone from supportive of this kind of bad behavior to opposing it saying there is not a smidgen of evidence. >> [inaudible] >> i have no idea. i have no idea what is in the minds of republicans other than the ones on this committee. once on this committee have sat to hearings, reviewed information, and are prepared to
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continue this investigation. >> [inaudible] as you can see from our questioning today, we have continued to gather facts around ms. lerner's absence of testimony. it would have allowed us to bring this investigation to a quick close if she had been willing to answer those questions. without us, we will have a few more questions to try to find out things she could have answered quickly today. >> are you confident you will get to the bottom of it? point, roads lead to ms. lerner. she becomes one of the key characters. had she been willing to explain those e-mails, which were provided through separate subpoenas, we could have brought this to a close. without that, it may dead end with ms. lerner.
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we are going to confer afterwards. any other questions? >> [inaudible] to -- there are cameras everywhere. we will confer to see our next steps. is not our primary concern today. we will continue investigating others at the irs in making determinations of how we can -- you ask a question earlier, do you think she's going to testify? likely, butthan there is a possibility that given a federal judge's order, she would testify. we will have to consider all of those possibilities.
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